Biodegradable polymers, such as poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(lactic-coglycolic acid) (PLGA), are attractive materials for tissue engineering because of their degradative and mechanical properties, which permit scaffolds to be tailored to the individual requirements of different tissues. Although these materials support tissue development, their chemical properties offer no control of cell adhesion or function because their surfaces become immediately masked by adsorbing serum proteins when the materials come into contact with body fluids. Furthermore, adhesion proteins undergo conformational changes and a decrease in bioactivity when adsorbed to hydrophobic materials, such as PLA. To overcome these limitations, we modified the properties of PLA by synthesizing a diblock copolymer with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), which is known to reduce the amount of adsorbed proteins and to modify their conformation. By altering the PEG content of these diblock copolymers we were able to control the adsorption of adhesion proteins and, because cell adhesion takes place only in the presence of serum proteins, to control cell adhesion and cell shape. Marrow stromal cell differentiation to the osteoblastic phenotype was strongly improved on PEG-PLA compared with PLA, PLGA and tissue culture polystyrene and led to a 2-fold increase in alkaline phosphatase activity and mineralization.